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Can't Detain Illegal Immigrants Indefinitely if You Can't Deport, Supreme Court Tells Centre

Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said the court was mindful of the diplomatic channels involved in such matters but the exercise should not result in keeping people detained endlessly.

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Utkarsh Anand

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that people can't be confined in detention centres for an indefinite period if the government fails to deport them to their native country.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said the court was mindful of the diplomatic channels involved in such matters but the exercise should not result in keeping people detained endlessly.

"If you can't convince the other country to accept, you can't keep them in detention centres indefinitely," the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Mehta was appearing for the central government in a PIL filed by activist Harsh Mander. Mander, through his plea, pleaded for humane treatment of detenues in Assam.

Submitting its reply, the Centre and the Assam government informed the court that as many as 986 persons have been declared foreigners by the tribunals.

But Mehta sought time to furnish numbers of those who have been deported back successfully. "The other country also has to accept them as their citizens," added the law officer.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing Mander, submitted that it was inhuman to put people in detention centres indefinitely.

"Even the US Supreme Court has taken a view that if they are not deported within a stipulated time period, they should be let free subject to certain reasonable conditions," added Bhushan.

At this, the bench observed that people can't be detained continually if they can't be deported on account of being illegal immigrants.

The Court has now sought details regarding total number of people declared foreigners in the last 10 years and their deportation.


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